October 25, 2005
Roth, Carolla among Stern replacements
By Georg Szalai and Paul J. Gough
NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Taking a page out of the
playbook of satellite radio companies, Viacom Inc.'s Infinity
Broadcasting radio unit Tuesday unveiled a free-spirited new
talk-radio format and a group of personalities as replacements
for Sirius-bound shock jock Howard Stern, including former Van
Halen frontman David Lee Roth and comic Adam Carolla.
Also as part of the broad-based replacement strategy, ABC
late-night talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel has signed on as
creative consultant for "The Adam Carolla Show," reuniting him
with his "Man Show" partner, and as an adviser for Infinity to
help it develop new radio talent and show ideas as well as make
guest appearances on Infinity programs.
Infinity said Tuesday that Stern, who has been carried on
27 of its stations but is starting on Sirius Satellite Radio
next year, will have his last live Infinity broadcast December
With immediate effect in four of the top five and seven of
the top 10 radio markets, Infinity on Tuesday launched "Free
FM," a new format that as part of the replacement strategy puts
the spotlight on characters. Nine stations that have carried
Stern will use that format, while an Infinity station in
Sacramento will switch to the nascent "Jack" format of DJ-free
music and a Tampa, Fla., station will change to a talk lineup.
"Infinity's Free FM stations will feature an eclectic mix
of personalities, whose distinct creativity, perspective, sense
of humor, intellect and unpredictability do not fall under the
guiding principals of any particular narrowcast theme or
ideology," Infinity chairman and CEO Joel Hollander said in a
statement. He added that Free FM would be a "hybrid of
provocative, political, pop culture, news, music and lifestyle
Satellite radio has in its programming often banked on
characters, such as Stern, Martha Stewart and others. In the
latest news in that vein, Sirius said Tuesday that it will
launch E Street Radio on November 1, an exclusive
commercial-free channel devoted to the music of Bruce
Springsteen and the E Street Band. It is set to run on Sirius
through January 31.
As has been expected in recent weeks, Roth and Carolla will
function as Infinity's new morning drive time hosts on New
York's WXRK-FM and LA's KLSX-FM, respectively, beginning
January 3. WXRK will debut the new Free FM moniker that day,
even though most other stations launched it as of Tuesday.
Basically splitting up the two coasts, Roth also will be
broadcast in Dallas, Philadelphia, Boston, Pittsburgh,
Cleveland and West Palm Beach, Fla., with Carolla to be carried
in San Francisco, San Diego, Phoenix, Portland, Ore., and Las
Infinity also hired Ohio radio host Rover for the morning
slot on WCKG in Chicago. His show "Morning Glory," which has
already been on the air in Cleveland and Columbus, and been a
favorite among adults and men 18-34, will now also be heard in
Detroit, Cincinnati, Memphis, and Rochester, N.Y.
Additionally, Penn Jillette, half of the comedy duo Penn &
Teller, will host a one-hour live program that will air in
January in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C.,
Detroit, San Diego, Baltimore and Las Vegas.
Also as part of the new Infinity programming lineup, midday
hosting foursome the Junkies will expand their reach from one
station to two.
"This is the first time anybody can remember that any
singular company is replacing 27 morning shows at once,"
Hollander said in a conference call Tuesday, signaling that
changes are possible in the program lineup over time as certain
talent could switch to other stations and markets depending on
About 10 months ago, Hollander and Infinity programming
chief Rob Barnett began to think about the company's life
They paid a visit to "The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart and
thought about other big-name replacements before realizing, in
Hollander's words, that it might not be best to try to hit "a
grand slam" with one host. Instead, they hit upon a regional
strategy. In Austin and Tampa, program directors asked for a
locally based morning show.
"It's not a competition, but (we want) to see who does
well, and obviously the ones who are doing well can be spread
to other markets," Hollander said, adding that Infinity wasn't
putting any definite timeline on judging its success. "This is
going to be a period of time. It's not going to happen
overnight. It's going to be a 12- to 24-month process."
And while Infinity has been circumspect on the fact that it
will take a hit with Stern off the air, Hollander said in his
conference call with reporters that he's viewing it as an
opportunity to gain advertisers, such as American Express and
several unnamed banks.
"There's millions of dollars that have been spent on radio
over the last 20 years by people who didn't want to advertise
on the Howard Stern show," Hollander said. He declined to
discuss specific financials.
Barnett said that the hiring of Roth and Jillette were
conscious decisions to go with entertainers who don't have
radio experience. "You're going to see more of that in coming
months," he said.
Roth was signed to a long-term contract with undisclosed
financial terms, Infinity said. "It's a significant investment
for the company," Hollander said.
Roth appeared on Stern's show Tuesday morning, the same day
he was introduced to the audience as his replacement in a
number of markets. Other hosts, such as Carolla, were also
introduced on their new radio stations.
Stern's presence was felt during Tuesday's conference call,
even though the radio host wasn't invited. In what Hollander
called "a typical Howard Stern prank," one character posed as a
radio trade reporter before interrupting the
question-and-answer section of the call.
"I'm glad that Howard thought this call was important
enough to put on Beetlejuice (a developmentally challenged
Stern favorite), but there will be no 24-hour channels of
farting and people with mental illnesses," Hollander said. "You
won't get that from Infinity."